Interview with Kerrang! magazine, August 2000
Manson: 'This is my Holy Wood...'
MARILYN MANSON has spoken exclusively to Kerrang! about his new album 'Holy Wood (In The Shadow Of The Valley Of Death)'. Due for release in October Manson describes the record as his heaviest work yet. He has also written a novel to accompany the album.
Speaking from his Hollywood home, Manson says that 'Holy Wood...' is "arrogant in an art-rock sense" and compares it to The Beatles' 1968 double opus 'The White Album'.
"It's heavier than 'Antichrist Superstar' was, in terms of sheer muscle and bones," he explains. "This is also the first time that Marilyn Manson sounds like a band. We were very musically collaborative. The record was written hand-in-hand between Twiggy (Ramirez, bass) and John 5 (guitar) - they've collaborated very well together - and I wrote a lot more than I usually do. I played guitar and some little things here and there, some keyboards."
'Holy Wood...' was written and recorded during a period when Manson faced intense media scrutiny in the wake of the Columbine High School killings. Manson sees the new album and his whole multimedia 'Holy Wood...' concept as a direct response to his detractors. He says:
"As far as my state of mind after Columbine goes - and other random acts of nature that took place last year that I got blamed for - I had to make a decision whether I was going to stay behind and get fucked in the ass, or if I was going to kick someone's teeth in. This record kicks people's teeth in."
Currently in the final mixing stages, 'Holy Wood...' was recorded at a number of suitably atmospheric locations.
"It's grown through various stages of writing and recording," says Manson. "We've experimented a lot, although most of it was written at my home in Hollywood. It's where the Rolling Stones stayed and wrote 'Let It Bleed' - which is my favourite Stones song - so it has some sort of musical meaning to me. We also recorded for some time in a house that used to belong to Harry Houdini, which also lends itself to some sort of extra magic. I'd been interested in Houdini to a small extent, but it was as much the house as anything. We rented it because it's got big rooms to record drums in, which I couldn't really do at home."
Aside from the songs that will make up the album, Marilyn Manson have also done "some more experimental recordings".
"It's stuff that will end up on the album and also as B-sides," he says. "We did some acoustic songs out in the desert."
'HOLY WOOD...' says Manson, "conceptually ties together both the 'Antichrist Superstar' and 'Mechanical Animals' records and "the Manson story so far". "When I was writing the lyrics for the album I was also writing my 'Holy Wood...' book," he continues, "which at the time was also going to be a film. So there's a definite story on this record. You can listen to the music and it stands on its own, but there's a story there also. This record finishes the story that I began with 'Antichrist Superstar'. I've just kinda worked my way backwards."
What is the concept this time around?
"One way of looking at 'Holy Wood...', in particular, is that it's about an innocent who is given the forbidden fruit. It's much the same as in the biblical sense, the whole Garden Of Eden thing. Once having that knowledge, this innocent then tries to get idealistic and use it to better his surroundings by becoming a revolutionary. But what happens is, the revolution itself becomes another product of the things that he's fighting, so in the end he realises that he's fighting himself.
"It's like on 'Mechanical Animals': the character of Omega was a satire of a rock star and when people hear this record and read the book, they'll understand very clearly the lineation between the characters on each album- and when I say 'characters', I'm putting it in layman's terms, because I don't feel like I'm playing a role."
Manson asserts that the album's theme is based on his experiences to date.
"When I wrote 'Antichrist Superstar' it was, in some ways. a prediction of the future," he muses. "Or at least being grandiose enough to say, 'This is what is going to happen'. Now, though, it's art imitating life - tike, which came first? The story in some ways was not about me, but in many ways very much about me. In some ways that record wasn't inspired by my life, but instead actually created my life and wrote my story for me as it went along. I became what I feared as a child."
How would you describe the record musically? You're not turning into Jim Morrison by doing acoustic songs in the desert?
"No! "he laughs. "I think that was only through lack of electricity and not a lack of... absence. I wanted to make a really electronic album, but do it in a really acoustic way. When I say 'acoustic', I don't mean acoustic guitars, I just mean recording live instruments.
"We did a lot of experimental things. I worked with Bon Harris who was in Nitzer Ebb - he did a lot of the programming with us and he was really great to work with. We would record natural sounds and he would turn them into something else. In some ways this is our 'White Album', because it's very experimental yet it came out a lot heavier than anything that anyone would imagine. It's definitely the heaviest record we've ever made. It needs to be to complete the trilogy."
Manson remains tight-lipped about specific track details. "I don't have a running order yet and I'm waiting before I divulge any of the titles," he says. "Of course there'll be a title-track but... no, I'll have to wait until I speak to you guys later on."
THE ARTWORK for 'Holy Wood...' will also be the most ambitious and detailed Manson has attempted.
"It stems from tarot and alchemy," he reveals, "which I started studying about 10 years ago. My interests in alchemy came into 'Mechanical Animals' in a 'Rosemary's Baby'- type way, because when you mix up the cover letters they say 'Marilyn Manson Is An Alchemical Man'.
"The artwork is done by Paul Brown, the same designer who did the packaging for our last two albums - or three if you count the live album. He and I worked together and decided that, rather than bringing in a photographer or an outsider, we'd learn how to do it ourselves. Paul and I worked the same way for the picture we've done for your cover this week.
"I'm not suddenly saying that I'm a photographer. We just work as a team and it's turned out to be pretty successful. The nature of this artwork is so in-depth and intricate that I have to work with someone who's close enough to me that I can expend a significant amount of time on it. A lot of people will put things on their album because it looks good, or because they want some image that looks depressing or scary, or whatever. The artwork on the new record is very significant in the sense that I began doing it the same time that I began writing the album."
'Holy Wood...' will feature up to 18 tracks, although Manson stresses that its running time will be shorter than that of 'Antichrist Superstar'.
"The record has got many layers to it," he says. "A lot of the songs may have three or four parts to them because of the way that the story is told, but it's not self-indulgent. It is arrogant in an art-rock sense," he laughs, "but it's not self-indulgent because it will please and it will entertain. Art-rock is only self indulgent if it bores you. If you make some sort of three-CD compilation instilled with a lot of nonsense that, to me, is self-indulgent."
THE 'HOLY WOOD...' film that Manson planned to launch at the same time as the album has now been put "on the back-burner". Manson has instead turned the screenplay into a novel.
"The film could potentially still happen," says Manson, "but only on my terms. I prefer to have a book and an album that say exactly what I want, rather than end up having a film that someone can water down.
"The film is a really strong story that's too politically and religiously controversial for everyone. I mean, I tried my hardest for a year to find people with the balls to get involved with it, but everyone is very afraid in the entertainment world at the moment. There's so much censorship in America now, because of last year and entertainment being blamed for violence. So I've made the most violent and offensive album that I could muster up.
"I took what the 'Holy Wood...' screenplay was and made some changes to shape it into a book. It's fiction and it will be out just after the album. The type of writers that I model myself on, or am inspired by, would be William Burroughs, Kurt Vonnegut, Aldous Huxley and Philip K Dick. Those people are what I aim to be. but we'll have to see what the book reviewers have to say.
"I'm quite happy with it. I think it's very detailed and if takes you to a lot of places. I find it strange that you can understand more about someone in their fiction writing -think people will learn more about me from this book than in my autobiography. You can be the most honest you want to be when you're lying."
MANSON IS currently planning a world tour in support of 'Holy Wood...'. He is suitably excited about riling the moral majority once more.
"I'm going to buy a bullet-proof vest," he deadpans. "No, I think the hassle is what makes things good. We had our most enjoyable time on the last tour at the very end when we were being shut-down in the States. It was something to drive us onwards. You need an adversary. Unfortunately for me it's the entire world.
"This time we're going to do a very big, very extensive tour," he predicts. "Everything is going to start in October - the album release and the tour. As far as coming to Europe, I think that that will probably come later - at the end of the year perhaps."
Manson, for once, can't be blamed for the latest negative rock-related incident - the tragic deaths at the Roskilde festival. What was his reaction?
"I didn't hear the exact details." he says. "Things like that have happened in rock 'n' roll before. It's like anything else: it's just as dangerous as driving in a car or attending a sporting event. While we were mixing one of our more violent tracks, I was watching some sort of basketball game and all the fans started setting police cars on fire. It was great in a way, because one of them had '666' on the roof and it was engulfed in flames, with people savagely dancing around it.
"Normally, I would condone an act of revolution, but people love to riot and loot for no apparent reason - then they say it's because of poverty, or whatever. The thing was, everyone I saw smashing cop cars was wearing very expensive LA Lakers jerseys that probably cost 40 or 50 bucks a time - it wasn't about poverty, it was just an excuse. I dislike sports. I don't think people blame sports events for violence enough, because when you train kids at school and teach them to be competitive in a crowd... well, it's a lot different to rock 'n' roll. Rock 'n' roll has a soul to it, but sports just make people emotional."
MANSON'S LAST public performance was with Nine Inch Nails, when he joined Trent Reznor onstage at New York's Madison Square Garden on May 9 to duet on 'Starfuckers Inc' and 'The Beautiful People'. Despite this, he stops short of saying that he and the Nine Inch Nails mastermind are best friends again.
"It's a relationship that comes and goes," he laughs. "I couldn't really say what the status is at the moment. I think we cleared up any problems that we had in the past, but that doesn't necessarily mean that there won't be any problems in the future."
What else have you been doing recently?
"I've been enjoying a lot of older things - stuff that was written a long time ago but which still holds true, such as William Blake's poetry. Also, my whole obsession with alchemy now seems natural, because you know you have it in you - you just didn't have a name for it before. When you read something powerful, you're following a path that was created for you.
"I've also been continuing to paint and eventually there will hopefully be an exhibition. We actually plan to exhibit the photography for the new album, because when we created it - without sounding pretentious - we were trying to create something that was more than just an album, something that can be looked as art and which provokes some other feelings start a riot like one of my favourite film-makers Boon Well, who worked with Salvador Dali. He had riots erupt at his film launches because they were so religiously controversial.
"Musically, I think people will really enjoy the GodHead record when it comes out. They're the band that I signed to my Post Human record label, and I worked on the production of the tracks for them. There were some other records that came out this past year that I liked, but I can't remember who..."
"No. I don't think it was one of them."